What Legal Recourse Can I Take Against My Neighbor for Damage to My Property?

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I live in Santa Cruz County, CA on several acres on a ridgetop. Highway 17 which is the main route from San Jose to the beach in Santa Cruz parallels my property which is a heavily forested hillside. The highway is about 300-400 feet lower than our house and about a mile away as the crow flies. Previous traffic noise was minimal and not annoying when outside The house next door, which is on a ten acre parcel, went into foreclosure and the agent who handled the renovations and subsequent sale for a bank had all the property’s trees between the house and Highway 17 cut or limbed for view. Now the traffic sounds at our home have gone from a refrigerator hum to a non-stop freight train making it impossible to be outside and enjoy our decks and hiking trails. Our house was on the market for three months prior to the trees being cut down and we had two offers on our home. We withdrew our house from the market to give ourselves a break and put it back on the market a month later just after the tress on the neighbor’s property had been cut. In seven months we received no offers even at a listing price $150k under the appraisal which was done for the first offer (full price but cash buyers backed out) and eventually at a price lower than our last offer. Everyone loved the house but hated the traffic noise. It is impossible for us to put up sound walls because of the slope and size of our property. We have beautiful outdoor views of redwoods and Monterey Bay but now we can only enjoy them from inside the house with the doors and windows shut. Can you tell me, please, if we have any recourse against the realtor and bank? We have tried an outdoor speaker system but the noise can still be heard outside. Thanks very much for your time.

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

In general, this is the sort of situation where you do not have recourse against your neighbors. Unless you have a very unusual easement over the neighboring property, something like cutting or trimming trees would not subject them to liability for an indirect effect like this.

So, I would start thinking of other ways to approach this problem. For example, are there any local ordinances regulating tree cutting or trimming? If so, did they violate them? Those probably wouldn’t create a private cause of action in you, a neighbor, however.

If you can’t put up a sound wall, would it be possible to plant your own trees? That’s more of a long-term solution, but might be worth looking into.

Do you have CC&Rs that apply to your property, and also to your neighbor’s? If so, those might create the kind of private right that you’re looking for.

Unfortunately, when you’re concerned about things like noise, air flow, and views, it is rare that a property owner has any recourse against their neighbors.

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Author: House Attorney